Yellowstone National Park — Part Two
This summer we set out for an almost four week trek through some of the most incredible scenery in the Western United States. After Jackson and the Tetons, we made the short trip to Yellowstone National Park. We spent a week camping in the West Yellowstone KOA and exploring the park, though we know we’ve only just scratched the surface. This video and blog post covers our first days in the park, where we mostly stayed on the west side of the main loop road.
Just a few weeks before we were set to depart, Yellowstone experienced massive flooding, and the park was shut down entirely for a few days. It was unclear for a bit whether we’d be allowed to enter the park, or if we’d need reservations, or if we’d be able to go some days but not others. We watched the footage of the flooding at home, overwhelmed by the damage created by the floodwaters. As we got closer to leaving, parts of the park started to open, and while we were in the Tetons, all entrance restrictions were lifted for the main loop road through the park. There were corners of the park we weren’t able to access, but that actually helped us focus our trip. This park is huge, just HUGE, and knowing we’d be limited in scope turned out to be useful.
We started Day Five slowly, doing laundry and cleaning up the Alto. The boys took another swim in the pool. In the afternoon, we went into West Yellowstone to scope out some potential birthday cakes. We went to The Bear Country Bakery first. They didn’t have any premade cakes (we hadn’t placed an order ahead of time,) but they did have the most magnificent cream puffs, which were large enough for Nathan and I to share.
Originally, we had booked a wildlife tour in the Tower Roosevelt / Lamar Valley corner of the park. After the floods a few weeks earlier, this section of the park was still closed. So we made a last minute change and booked a boat tour on Yellowstone Lake. We had to drive half way around the central loop road to Bridge Bay Marina to meet our boat, which took about an hour and a half. Our tour lasted about an hour and a half, and got us to parts of the park we never would have seen otherwise.
The tour ended in time for us to be crossing back through the park in the golden hour. As we passed through Hayden Valley, we had our best bison moments in the park. We were able to stay safely in our car and see hundreds of bison in the last lovely light of the day. Then, back near our favorite picnic bench by the Madison River, we found an adorable teenage bear foraging beside the road. This was our toughest camera moment of the trip, and also one of our trip highlights.
Day Six started with explorations of another bakery, Mountain Mama’s Cafe. They had all kinds of good stuff, including a party box with four of the chocolatiest cupcakes in the history of the world, with a birthda tiara, candles and a party horn. The boys got muffins and a head size chocolate chip cookie. Nathan and I went back to Bear Country Bakery for lunch, and tried the outstanding shawarma. We had a parking lot picnic lunch.
The goal for the day was to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and see the falls. We had another long trek through the park, along roads we knew and loved by this point. One small drawback to our “visit the park after 5 PM” plan is that gift shops were always closed when we arrived. We were earlier on this day, and spent some time in the Canyon Village, getting our passport stamps and tshirts and hats. We followed the GyPSy tour guide’s suggestion on how to approach the canyon. First, we went to the Brink of the Upper Falls lookout, then crossed over the river to the South Rim. We stopped at the Upper Falls Viewpoint, and then drove the South Rim Drive to the Artist’s Viewpoint. At this point, Gypsy Dave wanted us to continue on to the North Rim Drive, but the boys felt like they had seen every view of the falls they cared to see. So we went to eat some cupcakes. Rule #45 of Traveling with Teens, when they are done, be done.
Our last day in West Yellowstone was low key. The boys went for one last swim at the campground pool, we bought more fudge from the West Yellowstone KOA gift shop, and mom and dad did some desk errands. We had a late lunch / early dinner at the Firehole BBQ, which was amazing. A must-visit if you are in West Yellowstone and you like BBQ. We went back to our picnic table to film the “talking parts” of our video, and ended our day trying one last ice cream store in West Yellowstone. City Creamery, we’re glad we didn’t miss you.
Before we said goodbye to our campsite at the West Yellowstone KOA, we tried the campground breakfast. Three cheers for not having to do breakfast dishes on the day you pack up. Next up for us, Glacier National Park!
Our planning resources:
Music from this video, all from Epidemic Sound:
- Talking Trees by Max Kershaw
- A Walk Among the Clouds by Imprismed
- The Light (Instrumental) by Loving Caliber and Ooyy